CD Review: Maurizio Minardi – The Cook, the Clown, the Monk and the Accordionist

Maurizio Minardi The Cook, the Clown, the Monk and the Accordionist
(MM11/Belfagor. CD Review by Alison Bentley)

Italian London-resident accordionist Maurizio Minardi reveals his cinematic influences in the title of his new CD. He pays tribute to Michael Nyman and the latter’s soundtrack for the film The Cook, the Thief, his Wife and her Lover.

Minardi himself makes charmingly surreal short films to accompany his own music. In The Cook in Love, the band plays in the kitchen of a French restaurant, the Cook chopping in time to the swing beat. There’s almost a parody of Nyman’s string writing here- when transferred to accordion the repeated chords have real panache. There’s some fine swing drumming from Jason Reeve (he plays on about half the tracks) that can only be described as cheeky. The ensemble playing in the slow romantic section is exquisite, as the Cook falls for Shirley Smart’s rich cello tone- though in the film she’s bowing an umbrella.

The film for Penguin has the band in penguin suits- tuxes- and huge penguin masks to accompany the strong melody. The accordion seems to bring out the melodist in Minardi- his previous album My Piano Trio seemed to use more repeated motifs and chords. However, The Black Book and The Gambling Queen have insistent chord patterns redolent of both Bach and Steve Reich.

Three pieces, The Monk’s Escape, The Monk Abandoned and The Monk is Back are so visual, you can almost imagine the film as you listen. As the Monk escapes the theme speeds up like a Greek dance, before tumbling nervily to a halt. The accordion and cello improvise darkly over Marco Quarantotto’s splashy cymbals. We feel the Monk’s solitude in the Piazzolla-like, melancholic interplay of accordion and cello. Ennio Morricone is one of Minardi’s influences, and there are overtones of Morricone’s writing for the film Cinema Paradiso. The Monk returns to Phillip Glass-like chords with Gypsy jazz flourishes and strong swing. Dirty Clown has a gamine charm, like Yann Martel’s accordion waltz theme for Amelie (another film composer admired by Minardi). But there’s a jazzier, tenser section with a fine drum solo from Quarantotto.

Italian folk is also in the mix: Marcello has comic moments, drawing on ragtime rhythms held together by Nick Pini’s strong bass pulse. The Taming of the Shrew could almost be a tarantella dance, played in Southern Italy to exorcise a spider’s bite. The frenetic tune stays on a very tense chord, as the drums bring a jazzy, almost funky feel. The tune that gets under the skin is Five is Better Than Four. It brings a lump to the throat like a half-remembered song from childhood. It recalls the haunting work of Argentinian bandoneón-player Dino Saluzzi. Minardi’s accordion keeps the 5/4 beat while the restless jazz-inflected bass and funk-ish drums play uneasily across the bar- but the melody is what stays with you.

This is a beautiful album, weaving together jazz, folk and minimalist Classical music- the evocative melodies conjure up lasting images of comedy and pathos.

See the group on Fri 7th June at the Vortex, Dalston

Categories: miscellaneous

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